August 16, 2022

Eight vie in Smarty Jones; Pure Sensation seeks fourth Turf Monster

Pure Sensation and jockey Paco Lopez win the Parx Dash (G3) at Parx Racing on July 6, 2019 (c) Equi-Photo/Barbara Weidl

The Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in three weeks is expected to attract a slew of heavy hitters, including Maximum Security, War of Will, Game Winner, and Mr. Money. Its nominal local prep, the $300,000 Smarty Jones (G3) on Monday, may provide a longshot or two for the main event.

Gray Magician was the last horse to cross the finish line in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but has seen his form pick up in two subsequent starts. Second best to Mr. Money in the Indiana Derby (G2) two back, he returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since his maiden victory when taking the $100,000 Ellis Park Derby by a half-length August 11.

The Jason Servis-trained Grumps Little Tots also enters in peak form. Elevated from third to second in the $150,000 Easy Goer at Belmont Park on June 8, he bounced back with an impressive allowance win at Saratoga going nine furlongs.

Easy Goer winner Majid should show speed, just as he did in the aforementioned stakes and also in the Dwyer (G3), where he readily retreated to fifth in a race won by eventual Travers (G1) scorer Code of Honor. Other potential front runners includes War Treaty and Bethlehem Road, so the Smarty Jones pace could prove lively.

Also in the 1 1/16-mile event at Parx is Cairo Cat, a distant third in his allowance comeback at Saratoga following a layoff that dated back to his Iroquois (G3) victory at Churchill Downs last September. Top Line Growth was awarded the win in the $250,000 Iowa Derby two back, but was only fourth to Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby (G3). Spun to Run was a distant third behind Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto in the Haskell Invitational (G1) last out and obviously will relish the drop in class.

The stakes-laden Labor Day program at Parx also features the $300,000 Turf Monster H. (G3), which the venerable gray gelding Pure Sensation seeks to win for the third year in a row and a fourth time in total.

Six-for-seven on the Parx grass, Purse Sensation has won every Turf Monster he’s entered: in 2015, 2017, and 2018. He’s also won the Parx Dash (G3) three times, with his only local loss in the 2018 edition of the latter event.

Rocket Heat, second to Pure Sensation in this season’s Parx Dash, looms a leading challenger, while Justaholic has the look of a horse on the rise after recent stakes attempts at Monmouth Park and Colonial Downs.